The life-changing world of animal rescue

March 2024

If you, or someone you know has a dog, chances are it’s a rescue. While there are plenty of dogs in Thunder Bay that have come from breeders, there are many more that have come from a rescue organization.

Behind every animal rescue organization are dedicated volunteers who give their time and love to help these animals. And whether it’s an older dog or cat or a litter of puppies or kittens, every foster agrees they do it for purely selfish reasons: it feels good to help.

Craig and Nellie Rawlins have been fostering for Paws for Love Dog Rescue for 6 1/2 years and have seen many dogs and puppies come and go through their home.

“We want to do our part and ensure they have a better life than they might have had otherwise,” Craig says. “And they’re also very entertaining,” Nellie adds. “Sometimes while we watch tv, we’ll mute it and watch the puppies doing puppy stuff instead.”

Katie Sinclair has been fostering dogs for six years and admits that she’s fostered too many dogs to count.

“I enjoy fostering for a number of reasons,” Katie says. “Helping dogs is such a rewarding experience.

My dog, Daisy, loves to have a friend around the house but two dogs would be a lot for me right now.

Having fosters is a perfect medium.

And I like seeing all of the personality traits in each dog. They’re all so very different.” And there are many other highlights to fostering.

Craig and Nellie could go on and on sharing stories with happy endings. Like the time they had to bottle feed a litter of puppies. “It was incredible holding those little pups and feeding them, watching them grow and grow until eventually they were on solid food. When they were eight weeks and old enough to adopt out, it was like we had really accomplished something good. They all went to great homes and even though it was sad to say good-bye to them, it made us happy knowing they were going to be loved just as much as we loved them.”

While Craig and Nellie focus on fostering puppies, Katie has dedicated her time to helping older dogs. Although just as rewarding, the experience can be a little different. “With all of the adult dogs I’ve had, I’ve been able to witness so many beautiful things,” she says. “Some of these dogs come in so scared and worried, but as they get accustomed to you and your home, you watch them let go of their fears and open up and show their awesome personalities. The excitement when they wag their tail for the first time or learn simple commands like sit and lay down is hard to explain. It’s just wonderful.”

Gayle Dorey, a foster of seven years, three in Southern Ontario and four here in Thunder Bay, enjoys fostering because it teaches great life skills to her grandchildren. “It not only teaches them how to raise and train dogs and puppies, but also the value of compassion, caring, and giving back. My grandchildren love the puppies and are great babysitters,” Gayle laughs. “They really help me with fostering.”

You may think that it can be too difficult to say good-bye, but Katie has a different way of looking at the final stage in fostering. “During this time, when you’re making sure that the dog you have come to love so much finds the perfect home, when you see the dog instantly warm up to a family, it can be absolutely amazing. When you see the biggest smiles on the parents and children’s faces when they find out they get to take this perfect dog home, it’s very satisfying.” To ease the heartache, Katie keeps in contact with everyone who adopts a dog from her. “Getting photo updates is one of the best feelings,” Katie maintains. “I know that I’ve done something great. This dog was saved and now has a good home.”

Craig and Nellie agree. “When you form a bond with the pups then have to give them up for adoption, it is difficult, but we make sure that they go to a good home. This makes us available for the next group of rescues so we can help more dogs and puppies.”

Gayle maintains that fostering is just a small part of a dog’s life. “When I take them in, I know that I’m only a stop along their journey. I love them but they’re not mine. And there are others waiting to be saved.”

When it gets too difficult to give them away, there is of course the “Foster Fail”. For Craig and Nellie, it was Lucy and Emma, for Katie, it was Daisy. They couldn’t bear to part with them and to make things easier, they simply adopted them and made them a permanent part of their family. “And it’s been the best thing ever,” Craig admits. “Our dogs help us with our fosters. They teach them and show them the ropes, so to speak. There’s nothing like a good dog to teach other dogs how to behave.”

After fostering Zena, a husky cross, Gayle was happy when a potential adoption fell through last minute. “She and my dog Sophie had bonded so much, I just had to keep her.”

And there is, of course, the learning curve.

There are a lot of things to absorb when you’re fostering, like feeding schedules, raising puppies, and vet care to some extent, but all the volunteers agree that the rescue they volunteer for, Paws for Love, has helped them immensely. “They’re always there, 24/7, to help,” Craig and Nellie say. “They provide everything from blankets to food, collars and leashes, newspapers, etc. but most of all they give advice and encouragement.” And then there’s the learning of the heart.

“As a foster,” Katie says, “I have learned so many things about these amazing animals which have helped me become a better dog mom and a better person, but the most important thing I learned is how is to be patient with them and myself.”

Gayle’s learning takes on a personal level too. “I’ve realized that I can’t save every dog but I can help every dog that comes to me. And that makes me feel good.”

If you’re considering fostering, Craig and Nellie have this advice: “Fostering may not be for everyone depending on their circumstances, but you never know until you try. We have found so much enjoyment in fostering and plan to keep doing it until we are not able to any more. We can’t imagine not having little feet running around our home.”

Katie likes to encourage others to foster by telling them how wonderful it is. “I always brag about fostering and how it is an overall amazing experience. I tell people who are considering fostering to simply try it. It’s not a lifetime commitment - so if it’s not for you, you don’t have to do it again - but that’s usually not the case! You can help out when you have the time and can say no when you have other commitments. Honestly, anything helps when it comes to fostering.”

And as Nellie emphasizes, “You don’t need a big home, just a big heart.”

If you would like to try your hand at fostering a rescue, please contact any of the rescue organizations in Thunder Bay including Paws for Love Dog Rescue Thunder Bay, Northern Reach Network, Thunder Bay District Humane Society, Murillo Mutts, Caring Hearts Cat Rescue, and New Hope Dog Rescue. Most rescues will ask you to complete an application and answer a few questions during a phone interview.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.